Lan Yu

Based on the anonymously published internet novel Beijing Story, Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan's feature boldly tackles a number of subjects that are still taboo in contemporary China, including homosexuality, the senseless violence of Tiananmen Square and the sexual exploitation of poor provincial Chinese emigrants who become big city prostitutes. Lan...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Based on the anonymously published internet novel Beijing Story, Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan's feature boldly tackles a number of subjects that are still taboo in contemporary China, including homosexuality, the senseless violence of Tiananmen Square and the sexual exploitation of poor provincial Chinese emigrants who become big city prostitutes. Lan Yu (Liu Ye) is one such emigrant. He comes to Beijing from the rural northeast to study architecture, but is soon supporting himself by exchanging sex for money. His very first client is Chen Handong (Hu Jun), a flashy, fully yuppified partner in a successful construction company. For Handong, the encounter is just a one-night stand, but it means something more to Lan Yu: It's the first time he's had sex with another man, and he likes it. Four months later, Lan Yu runs into Handong on a snowy Beijing street and they begin seeing each other regularly. Handong warns Lan Yu that theirs is in no way a permanent relationship — he makes no secret of the fact that he plans to end things the moment they "get to know each other too well" — but Lan Yu falls in love. Handong gets him a construction job and even buys him an apartment, but also makes good on his promise. After the horror of Tiananmen Square drives the lovers closer together, Handong makes an announcement that shocks Lan Yu as much as it breaks his heart: He's getting married. Kwan, best known in this country for the lush ghost story ROUGE, is one of Hong Kong's few openly gay directors, and he doesn't shy away from a graphic depiction of homosexual sex. But what will really shock Western viewers are the luxurious trappings of Handong's world: The tailored suits, Mercedes Benz and expensive Japanese sushi bars have little to do with age-old perceptions of the PRC. The attitudes that continue to circumscribe Handong's life, however, and force countless gay Chinese men like him to lead double lives, are strictly old world; they're what ultimately give this brave and sweetly rendered love story its tragic edge. (In Mandarin, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Based on the anonymously published internet novel Beijing Story, Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan's feature boldly tackles a number of subjects that are still taboo in contemporary China, including homosexuality, the senseless violence of Tiananmen Square a… (more)

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